Don’t be fooled by MISSION Act claims of privatization.
The press recently has been awash with breathless revelations of how the Trump Administration “plots costly private care expansion for veterans” or that the “VA seeks to redirect billions of dollars into private care.” What is missing in such dramatic warnings is they completely jump the gun and place the blame on the VA when Congress has, in fact, legislatively directed the VA to do exactly this. After the fact pronouncements…that this was never the intention of the legislation passed…The MISSION Act, is simply about whether or not the veteran is getting quality and timely health care.
Rather than proclaim vast conspiracies about how craven profiteers are looking to sell off the VA for parts, it might be helpful to look at what The MISSION Act actually requires the VA to do.
First, under the new law, the VA is required to make “Access Standards.” Mind-boggling as it is right now, the VA has never developed standards of how long veterans should have to wait for health care, or even what defines good care or not. After 153-years of existence, Congress finally told the VA to develop such standards. Then, and only then, if a VA medical facility fails to meet VA standards, shouldn’t the veteran be able to demand non-VA care? The veteran can still stay in the VA care system if they want to. But if they’ve had enough of VA failures…The MISSION Act provides the safety valve for a veteran to seek the timely and quality care the VA failed to provide.
Second, under the new law, The MISSION Act also requires VA to establish standards for quality of the care they deliver which, again unbelievably, the VA does not currently have. But incredibly, even where the VA fails to meet the standards for quality that it establishes for itself, the VA is not required to provide the Veteran access to care. It’s entirely optional for the VA to provide access to non-VA care, even in those circumstances where the VA fails to provide quality care. Fortunately, the VA is still allowed to give these veterans who suffer from poor quality care the option to seek community care outside the VA, and we believe the VA will take full advantage of the law to make this option available.
Third, despite the desperate cries that unfettered access to urgent care is some evil VA-hatched attempt to slip in wholesale and unconditional privatization. Section 105 of The MISSION Act requires the VA to provide walk-in care for ALL veterans receiving health care services from the VA. No prior failure by the Department to meet access standards or standards for quality is required. The law is unequivocal that all veterans receiving VA care now have a right to go to non-VA urgent care center.
This is the law Congress passed and the President signed into law. This is not some vast conspiracy on the part of nameless, faceless ideologues to seize control of the VA, cut it up like some back-alley chop shop, and sell it off for its parts. This is the law Congress passed by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, and which was debated and negotiated for months before passage.
What should concern every veteran and Member of Congress is that what appears to be percolating is possibly a coordinated, intentional, and focused campaign by press and defenders of the failed VA status quo to force veterans to live with the same VA failures veterans have endured for decades by undercutting the provisions of The MISSION Act which provide Veterans relief from their suffering. Rather than seeing The MISSION Act as the opportunity to fundamentally change the focus of VA health care from controlling costs and preventing some fear of widespread fraud by veterans, to instead a focus where optimizing veterans health care…these ideologues and defenders of the status quo think it’s perfectly acceptable to condemn veterans to a health care system which consistently and repeatedly fails them.